Kenneth Sharpe | 11/18/2016 8:36:05 PM
Problems With Citrus This Year:
Citrus has had its share of problems this year. Now that satsumas are getting ripe homeowners and producers are seeing yet another problem.
It was not bad enough that we had a very wet growing season and that helped a lot of citrus to fall off early this year. Then we had a flood that soaked the root system further and flood waters went over lots of citrus trees in the parish. Food and Drug Administration recommendations are that you should not consume fruit or vegetables that come in contact with flood water due to contaminants that are in the water.
Well for those who did not lose all their citrus to too much water or flooding, satsumas are starting to get ripe. The problem has been once the peeling is removed we are finding that there is internal damage to the fruit. Some of the slices have hard clear areas that have no juice or flavor and others have black or green spots within those slices.
This condition is caused by stinkbugs, more correctly known as leaf-footed bugs. These bugs have a piercing mouth part and are a big problem in tomatoes, beans, peas, pecans and citrus. They usually get on the citrus crop starting in mid to late August, when we were all busy with flood recovery. They are worse on those earlier varieties that were showing any color change early but they will move to greener fruit also.
You will typically see a large number of stink bugs in the morning congregated on a few fruit in the same area. They will use their piercing mouth part to extract juice from citrus and leave a clear area inside where they pierced. Where you are seeing black or green inside the fruit is when there are fungus present, either on the exterior of the fruit or on the beak of the stinkbug and he pushed the fungus through when piercing the fruit.
It is not easy to tell you have stink bug damage by looking at the exterior of citrus but sometimes you will see a faint green/yellow halo where the piercing occurred and you will find a corresponding bad spot inside the fruit.
The part of the citrus that is not affected is good and can be consumed but it makes it hard it you are selling fruit or giving it away to your friends.
Leaf-footed bugs feeding on ripening fruit causes premature color change and fruit drop, which is prevalent this year.
Owari is the most widely grown satsuma variety because of its excellent fruit quality and its superior cold hardiness. It is just getting ready now. Owari matures from early to mid-November and can be left on the tree through early December. Brown Select matures about 2 weeks before Owari, traditionally coming to market in mid-October to early November. Both, Louisiana Early and Early St. Ann Satsumas will mature in early September through mid-October and I have seen the most damage on these early varieties.
You cannot pick citrus by the calendar as the whole crop will react to weather conditions differently each year. The crop can be 2 weeks early or late from year to year but the varieties will typically ripen with the same intervals between them. Color is also not a great indicator of maturity in satsumas and can be a bit of a Trick-or-Treat. Taste a few fruit before going in for your harvest. The fruit will tend to get sweeter as you leave it on the tree but each of us likes a different combination of sweet and tart.
Oranges, grapefruit and lemons will not be ready to harvest until they reach full color.